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Psych Eval - Hollow Knight

A discussion of the personality of The Knight from Hollow Knight based on gameplay mechanics, and filtered through the lens of the Meyers-Briggs personality profile.

Games offer us a unique way of exploring a character. We not only see the world from their eyes, but we actually interact with the world through their choices. We use abilities in games that echo the choices the character would make when presented with a certain situation. These sorts of abilities define the characters in our video games more accurately than even the narrative that we are presented via sound or text. When the two don’t align, we automatically look towards the actions of the player character to tell us what kind of person they really are. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Given this, I would like to take a more in-depth look at some of gaming’s heroes.

This time, I am diving into the personality of The Knight, insect hero of Hollow Knight. I’m going to take a look at the actions they take in order to build a complete picture of their personality profile. I’m choosing to frame this personality profile in a way that is specific enough to give us an idea of who The Knight is, but also vague enough that we can build a full profile with minimal information. The framework I have chosen is the Meyers-Briggs personality profile. I will attempt to sort The Knight into one of the sixteen possible personalities defined by Meyers-Briggs.

 

So let’s begin.

 


First off we have to take a look at the defining features of this character. First thing to note is that I’m writing this with gender neutral pronouns because I honestly don’t believe that a gender is ever assigned to this character. There is an implication of masculinity, because there is an implication of following in the footsteps of the king, but that is the closest the game comes to directly addressing the subject. Largely this is irrelevant, but I choose to highlight this because it points out something very important about this character: We are told next to nothing by the narrative about who we are playing. This is also the reason I wanted to write this article, because I honestly don’t even know if there will be enough meat here for me to work with.

 

So to continue, let’s take a look at The Knight’s appearance. This can be boiled down to pretty much just a mask and a cape. The Knight has only these two elements of clothing, and then a sword for combat. That sword is actually a nail, but the difference is pretty nonexistent, so whatever.

 

The Knight’s primary interaction with the world is through the sword. The Knight wanders around with basic movement and jumping abilities, and a sword to act outwardly on the world around them. As the game progresses, you unlock a series of magical attacks, movement abilities, and nail upgrades. The focus of the game design is on mobility and intelligent use of your sword, rather than on wielding fancy magical attacks. The Knight seems to be ok with only a sword by their side, and the characters The Knight meets out in the world emphasize the classic swordsman mentality you often see in cliched japanese action movies, further reinforcing the idea of relying only on your sword.

 

With that said, it’s notable that The Knight DOES pick up a series of charms, and a small handful of spells, all of which create a set of combat abilities outside of simple sword work. You learn a spell for attacking at range in each direction, and you can equip things that deal area of effect damage to nearby enemies. What’s notable here, however, is that The Knight only learns things that are useful at relatively short ranges. The spells that they learn are not usable frequently enough to do anything but augment sword combat, and the charms that deal alternative types of damage don’t go very far outside of The Knight’s reach with the nail. All this tells me that The Knight chooses to focus on things that allow them to keep close to their opponents. They like to get their hands dirty, as it were. If not, clearly their focus would lean more on the ranged spells that are definitely present in the game’s world.

 

Something else to note is the love The Knight has for THEIR nail. In many games, you would expect to find new weapons as you progress throughout the game. The Knight here does not choose this. Their own nail is the focus of the game, and as you progress, you have that one weapon upgraded with a variety of new features and finer craftsmanship at the hands of a blacksmith. Never is that nail removed from your hands, you have no ability that throws it or sets it down for any reason. You are VERY attached to your blade.

 

 

Among the charms, there are also a number of interesting abilities that tell us about The Knight. For instance, the fact that The Knight does not inherently remember where they are, and relies on a compass to tell them that. Most games give you this information as a default, but Hollow Knight does not. Obviously, this is a gameplay consideration. The designers wanted the game to require players to build a solid mental model of their world, giving up an ability slot if they wanted the easy way out. However, intentional or not, this does tell us something about our character. They are not the type to remember where they are without a little assistance. Similarly, they are not the type to think of defense. None of The Knight’s abilities are defensive in nature. The Knight evades and attacks, but never just defends themselves, except through use of a charm found while out in the world. There are a number of these charms available, so The Knight doesn’t have any qualms about acknowledging their somewhat overly-aggressive nature, but that they aren’t a default skill tells us something.

 

The last ability of note is the Dream Nail, which allows The Knight to see into the minds of others. They use this ability to free the souls of fallen warriors, and to better understand the ancient king who once ruled here. This is primarily a source of information gathering, but can also be used to cleanse the soul of another being, as is seen during the “true ending” which requires that players use this ability at a specific moment.

 

I think that just about covers The Knight’s abilities. Let’s look at their actions now. The goal in Hollow Knight is to restore the world. When you begin, Dirtmouth is basically a ghost town. As you progress, you gather more and more people together. As you explore, in fact, you continuously meet new characters all over the world. Most of the time your goal is to save them, or help them in some way. The Knight’s every action seems to be one of altruism, trying to cleanse the land by any means.

 

 

That said, we do also have to acknowledge the body count The Knight leaves in their wake. Definitely a “Live by the sword” type of person, The Knight continually seeks out combat. Each aggressive creature in the world is an enemy to be conquered. The Knight usually allows an enemy to make the first aggressive move, as can be seen at the appearance of most bosses, but on a number of occasions The Knight will be the one to attack first, sometimes without any consideration for their opponent. One prime example of this is the Failed Champion battle, which takes place inside the dreams of a fallen warrior. Out in the real world, that warrior is being mourned by family, which The Knight has the ability to mercilessly slaughter despite their complete lack of aggression.

 

We also have to acknowledge the spells The Knight learns, and the ways that they acquire these. In several instances, The Knight allows themselves to be tainted by dark magic, literally becoming a shadow of vengeful anger at one point in the game. The Knight has a nail that allows them to forcibly invade the minds of other people. This is not the act of a kind person, but seems to be an action done out of necessity in order to heal the world. The Knight wantonly reads the thoughts of just about everyone around them, but only dives into the minds of those who are particularly cruel. At no point are you given the ability to weaken a villager to the point of being able to dive into their dreams, instead reserving that ability only for bosses and the dead. In all cases, the dream nail is used to cleanse, despite its invasive nature. The Knight is ok with wielding such an unseemly weapon, but only allows themselves to use it when necessary. The Knight is more ok with killing an innocent, than with invading their mind. Presumably because The Knight’s goal is to cleanse the world, which requires death but not dishonor. This is also reinforced by their spell acquisitions, which all involve taking darkness into themself in order to bring light to the world around through violent action.

 

The Knight endlessly sacrifices themself in order to improve life for those around. The various endings you see show The Knight sacrificing their own well-being in a variety of ways in hopes that the world might be cleansed. This works to varying degrees throughout the different endings, but the theme is always the same. The Knight sacrifices, and the world benefits.

 

By the same token, all of the side quests The Knight takes on are those that have The Knight catering to the wishes of others. From collecting the favorite items of various characters, to helping to support a businessman and his wife, to reuniting a confused old man with his long-lost home. Each quest you undertake is done for the emotional benefit of those around you, usually resulting in a reward in the form of charms or “geo”, the game’s currency. However, a number of the quests have no direct benefit to yourself, only helping to better the lives of those out in the world. For instance, the aforementioned old man who’s home you find with no direct benefit to yourself. Once again, The Knight proves to be an altruistic hero.

 

 

Alright, so let’s break that down into the Meyers Briggs framework and see what we get.

 

For those unfamiliar, Meyers-Briggs is a binary system of four unique points, all combining into a combination of 16 possible personality profiles. Every person is said to fall into categories as follows: Introvert or Extrovert, Intuitive or Sensing, Thinking or Feeling, Perceiving or Judging. I’ll go into more detail as we nail these down, and we’ll proceed from left to right, starting with Introvert or Extrovert.

 

Introverts are those who give away their emotional energy around other people. Extroverts gain emotional energy from others. Introverts, as a result, tend to like to spend much of their time alone, while an extrovert will tend to seek out company. The Knight works alone, but travels the world for the benefit of those around them. The entire goal in Hollow Knight is to gather the remaining people back into town and to protect them. The Knight wants to rebuild a community that has been destroyed. Extrovert might be the natural assumption, based on that, but an Introvert might also do these same things, simply not spending time in large groups once the community has been restored. However, since we’re judging this only by action, I will call The Knight an Extrovert.

 

Intuitive people are those who extrapolate from known data. Sensing people are those who take data at its face value. An intuitive person will take information and make logical assumptions based on knowledge gained elsewhere, while a sensing person will wait for new information to be presented before making any assumptions. The Knight here is relatively clearly defined. The Knight’s mission is to seal away the corruption, and they do so by taking the darkness into themself. Over and over again, throughout the game, we are presented with other characters who are questioning whether The Knight can truly achieve their goal, whether they are walking the right path. The Knight does not know if their actions will result in healing the corruption, but they make a solid assumption and take action. As such, The Knight is definitively an Intuitive personality.

 

Thinking personalities are those that are driven primarily by logic and reason. Feeling personalities are those who allow their emotions to guide them. A thinking person will act based mainly on stiff logic, while a feeling person will bend to the whims of their intuition more easily. The Knight travels the land, using a dream nail to invade and destroy the minds of ancient warriors who are trapped in the places of their deaths. A number of the bosses are similarly confined in various ways. In each case, The Knight ruthlessly slaughters everyone and everything that is in the way of their goal. The Knight is systematic and heartless to the needs of the world around them. The Failed Champion example I mentioned above is a great one here, because The Knight may slaughter the siblings of the Champion and doing so affects nothing else in the game. From beginning to end of the entire game, there is not a single emotional reaction from The Knight to any of the stimulus around them. They may be altruistic, but they have hardened their heart to the atrocities around them, and as such are acting purely based on logic. The Knight, to me, is very clearly a Thinking personality.

 

Perceiving people like to react to the world around them as it is presented to them. Judging people like to make plans and place things into organized boxes for simpler digestion. In video games this is most clearly represented by the presence of specific quests. Judging personalities will create goals with specific plans on how to reach those goals, while a Perceiving personality will explore a space more naturally without a set goal hierarchy. The Knight definitively marks each quest location they are trying to reach on their map, and approaches their goal with a loose plan throughout. However, you don’t have discrete quests that you check off a list as you progress. The greater evidence here is a little more abstract. From the beginning of the game, The Knight has a strong sense of purpose. Every action seems to be in line with a plan. Several characters you meet comment on your plan, and your goals, as if the entire progression is a known entity. It seems that everything you do is done for a reason so well defined that even other people know all the steps. And The Knight never waivers from this path. There are no great side quests or plot twists that happen, your goal remains the same from start to finish. You are determined to see this through no matter how bad things may get. As a result of that, I have to say that The Knight must be a Judging personality.

 

And so there we have it. The Knight, protagonist of Hollow Knight, is an ENTJ.

 

 

This makes a lot of sense for this character, as ENTJ is “The natural leader” personality type. They are good at acting on plans, they care about the people around them, and are naturally comfortable in very public positions. ENTJ is a very “Kingly” sort of personality, which reinforces the implication of following in the king’s footsteps that I mentioned earlier in the article.

 

I would also like to clarify that all of this is very clearly up for debate. My goal in this article series is to spell out my steps and to get people to understand what their gameplay says about their protagonist’s personality, regardless of their intention with their storytelling. If you disagree that The Knight is an ENTJ, feel free to comment below and explain why, I’d love to hear your thoughts! My goal is simply to break down the actions of this character such that a dialogue CAN happen, and I’m happy to pursue such a discussion at any length.

 

That’s all for Hollow Knight, folks! I’ve previously written a similar article to this one, but focusing on Samus Aran, protagonist of the Metroid series of games. Feel free to read that article here: http://baldsavant.blogspot.com/2018/01/psych-eval-samus-aran.html

 

And thanks again for reading!

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